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Phase I - Initial Exploratory Studies

Researchers conducted the following studies between 1994 and 1997 to identify productive research directions. 

A. Constructed the first research definition of the illness, an essential first step for meaningful research. This involved:

  1. Identifying the main symptoms of the illness in members of a Reserve construction battalion. [References]
  2. Identifying different symptom patterns that might indicate biological variants of the illness. [References]
  3. Testing the fit of the illness definition in a sample of U.S. Army veterans in a VA clinic. [References]
  4. Testing the fit of the case definition in a national sample of Gulf War-era veterans. [References]

B. Brought representative ill and well veterans to UT Southwestern Medical Center for testing and found that those meeting the illness definition differed from well members of their units on objective medical tests, indicating a biological, not psychological illness.

  1. Brain function measured by neuropsychological testing. [References]
  2. Brain reflexes measured by audiovestibular and neurophysiologic testing [References]
  3. Found no difference in regular brain MRI scans, visually interpreted SPECT scans, clinical neurological examination, and routine laboratory tests. [References]

C. Performed an epidemiologic study to identify environmental risk factors for each of the 3 variants of the illness.

  1. Found highly significant associations of the Gulf War illness with environmental chemical exposures, particularly low-level sarin nerve agent, pyridostigmine anti-nerve gas medication, and pesticides in flea collars. [References]

The Perot Foundation funded Phase I studies.